(Gilʹgal) [Rolling; Rolling Away].
In the past, most geographers favored Khirbet en-Nitleh as the possible location of Gilgal. However, particularly since 1931, Khirbet El Mafjir has been suggested. Its position, 2 km (c. 1 mi) NE of ancient Jericho (Tell es-Sultan; Tel Yeriho), corresponds more closely to early literary references (such as those of Josephus and Eusebius) about the distance from Jericho to Gilgal. Then, too, archaeological excavation at Khirbet en-Nitleh has provided no evidence of pre-Common Era habitation. On the other hand, superficial explorations in the vicinity of Khirbet El Mafjir have yielded earthenware fragments that indicate the presence of some kind of settlement centuries before the Common Era. Although this site does not lie due E of ancient Jericho, the Biblical designation “eastern border of Jericho” may include the NE.
Gilgal was the site of Israel’s first encampment after crossing the Jordan in Abib (Nisan) of 1473 B.C.E. Here, in commemoration of Jehovah’s drying up the waters of the Jordan to permit Israel to cross, Joshua set up the 12 stones taken from the middle of the riverbed. (Jos 4:8, 19-24) At Gilgal all the Israelite males born in the wilderness were circumcised, Jehovah afterward saying that he “rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off [them].” The site was then given the name “Gilgal,” meaning “Rolling; Rolling Away,” to serve as a reminder of this. (Jos 5:8, 9) Later, disguised Gibeonites from the hill country to the W came down to the Jordan Valley and approached Joshua at Gilgal, entering into a covenant with Israel. (Jos 9:3-15) When the Gibeonites afterward came under attack, Joshua’s army made an all-night march from Gilgal up to their city to rout the league of five Amorite kings. (Jos 10:1-15) The distribution of the land of Canaan proceeded initially from Gilgal (Jos 14:6–17:18) and was completed from Shiloh.—Jos 18:1–21:42.
Jehovah’s angel is reported to have gone “from Gilgal to Bochim.” (Jg 2:1) This may allude to the angelic appearance near Gilgal shortly after Israel had crossed the Jordan (Jos 5:10-14) and therefore suggests that the same angel appeared at Bochim.
It is uncertain whether it was Gilgal near the Jordan or No. 2 below that was included on Samuel’s annual circuit. (1Sa 7:15, 16) There he offered sacrifices after Saul’s anointing (1Sa 10:1, 8) and, along with the people, renewed Saul’s kingship.—1Sa 11:14, 15.
While Philistine forces were massing up in the hill country around Michmash, King Saul was down in the Jordan Valley at Gilgal. Fearful that the enemy would sweep down upon him, Saul presumptuously offered up a burnt sacrifice. (1Sa 13:4-15) It was also at Gilgal that Saul was told of Jehovah’s rejection of him as king because of his failure to obey Jehovah’s command to devote all the Amalekites and their flocks and herds to destruction.—1Sa 15:12-28.
Through the prophet Micah, Jehovah reminded his people of his blessings upon them. “From Shittim . . . to Gilgal” he had blocked the Moabite effort to corrupt them, had brought Israel across the Jordan, and had rolled away the reproach of Egypt. But Israel failed to discern these “righteous acts of Jehovah.”—Mic 6:5; Nu 25:1.
Gilgal may possibly be also known as Geliloth.—See GELILOTH.
The postexilic Beth-gilgal may be the same as the Gilgal near Jericho or No. 2.—Ne 12:28, 29.
2. Although some view it otherwise, the Gilgal mentioned in connection with Elijah and Elisha is evidently not the same as No. 1. Before being taken up to the heavens in a windstorm, Elijah, accompanied by Elisha, went from Gilgal down to Bethel and then to Jericho. (2Ki 2:1-5) This route suggests a location near Bethel. Also, their going “down” implies that this Gilgal was in a mountainous region. The Gilgal in the Jordan Valley would not fit this description. Hence this Gilgal is usually linked with Jil Jiliya, a large village atop a hill about 11 km (7 mi) N of Bethel. Elisha later rendered harmless a poisonous stew there. (2Ki 4:38-41) Perhaps this or still another Gilgal is the one described at Deuteronomy 11:29, 30 as having Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal in front of it.
In later periods this city (or perhaps No. 1) evidently became a center of false worship. (Ho 4:15; 9:15; 12:11) Foreseeing the subsequent exile of the northern kingdom, Jehovah, by his prophet Amos, scornfully tells the irreformable Israelites to be “frequent in committing transgression” at Gilgal, also foretelling exile for its inhabitants.—Am 4:4; 5:5.
3. A site W of the Jordan mentioned in a list of Israelite conquests under Joshua. (Jos 12:7, 8, 23) Some believe that the text may contain a scribal error, hence prefer the Greek Septuagint reading of “Galilee,” as in Revised Standard Version.